Le Coq Rico

30 E 20th StNew York, NY 10003 • (212) 267-7426 • lecoqriconyc.com

According to our waiter, the chef gave up his Michelin star to open this place. Which, in the echelons of stupid decisions, ranks right up there with Jordan’s decision to leave the Bulls so that he could play for the White Sox.

Why so harsh? Well, first because I’m ferocious. And second because this place is literally for the birds. It also just might be the first place I’ve come across that’s as overpriced and overhyped as Eleven Madison Park. Not one thing was amazing save the price tags, ringing in at digits you’re more likely to see at The Strip House. But without the gluttonous satisfaction you at least get from a steakhouse meal.

The Plymouth Rock whole Chicken for example, rings in at nearly $100 and is no better than the one you get at Whole Foods for less than the sales tax on this bird. But shame on us for listening to our waiter who always recommended the most expensive thing on the menu and never chose a single winner, including the wine, going 0 for 3.

The blah continued, even with a layup like seared foie gras, which is actually the first time in my life that I didn’t finish this dish because it was so bland. The terrine version is much better, but even that failed to truly impress me. It’s just the better of the two options if you simply must dine on goose liver.

The fries are also just okay, again, grossly over-hyped by comparison to the likes of the Phoenician Fries at Ilili. Even the profiteroles for desert were a big ole ball of meh.

In fact, the only dish of the night I would feel comfortable recommending is the artichoke salad with gizzards. It’s quite good and between that and the décor it’s just barely enough to keep this place from getting one knife… Barely.

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Little Drunken Chef

36 E Main St. Mount Kisco, NY 10549 • (914) 242-8800

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Well, the fact that the chef is a self-proclaimed drunk explains a lot. And considering this place got four stars on Yelp, I’d say the chef isn’t the only one who’s plastered, because you’d have to be shit-faced to think this place was even worth three, much less two. And yet both times we have tried to go here there has been a 45 and 20-minute wait respectively. The second time we powered through it with a few drinks at the bar, which also had a wait to be seated. We haven’t had this hard a time getting a table in Westchester since Bedford 234, but at least that meal proved worth it.

So back to the bar, where we were eventually able to squeeze in and get the only highlights of the night, the drinks. Figures when you take into account where you are. The two drinks we had were the sake cucumber concoction and the Drunken Manhattan, which is far less inventive than the sake (my reco), tasting like your run of the mill Manhattan, but served in a martini glass as opposed to a lowball. Oooooh!

Then miracle of miracles happened, our table was ready in under 20 minutes. And lucky us, we scored a drunken, jovial waiter who went on to swoon about roughly 75% of the menu, which is always a worrisome sign, made only more worrisome by the fact that not one single recommendation was even just okay, much less good. I think he was just ecstatic to have a job and someone to talk to.

Starting with the Tossed Goat Salad, the kale is overdressed, the Drunken Goat (that’s the actual name of the cheese, which is available at any Whole Foods, but aptly chosen for its name) is shaved so thin you can’t even taste it and the chunks of peach aren’t even ripe! On the plus side, at least they didn’t screw up the candied pecans. But the rest of the salad should definitely be “tossed.”

Next came the jamon and manchego croquettes four ways. And sadly 75% of them sucked about five different ways by my count. The only one rising to an “eh” was the chutney, but I suppose that’s to be expected since Indian is the closest in to the chef’s comfort zone.

As the night progressed, the losers kept coming and I’m not just referring to the clientele lined up outside still waiting for a table. I’m also talking about the pulled pork buns, served with a hint of chimichurri. Not with actual chimichurri, mind you. Just a hint. That hint being in the description on the menu, yet nowhere to be found in the dish itself.

And for an entrée, I highly recommend the paella for none. I tried the Paella for one and it might very well be the worst form of Spanish torture since the Inquisition. Overcooked rice, overcooked chicken, overcooked scallops, overcooked mussels and a sprig of chorizo- granted I’m not entirely sure it was honestly chorizo, but it was definitely a sausage of some kind.

Now I know I get dramatic sometimes and take things to extremes, but to have had to wait 20 minutes for this performance should be punishable by death. I’d rather wait in line at the DMV! Seriously. And the worst part is that I had to actually pay for the mistreatment of my mouth! But what’s crazy about all of this is that I have actually been a long time fan of the “Little” franchise, going back to its humble beginnings as just a Kebab Station. Then a Spice Market. That said, I’ve noticed that the further they step away from their bailiwick, the more the seams start to show, because Crepe Street is a bit of a pass, especially compared to places like Good Food in Briarcliff. But never has anything been as bad as this place, which if allowed, I would like to rename “Little Big Mistake.”

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Black Bottle

919 Bellevue Way NE Bellevue, WA 98004(425) 223-5143blackbottlebellevue.com

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Having never been to this suburb of Seattle before (unfortunately sharing the same name as a mental institution), I imagine this place does quite well for itself considering the options around it aren’t exactly aplenty. And with its massive industrial loft décor, small plates and vino selection it would most likely be a standout in most suburbs. Granted, as I understand it, there’s also one downtown, the original, off which I’m guessing it drafts its cool.

Other coolness to be had would include the crispy garlic shrimp, the blasted broccoli and the beets smothered in melted cheese (tastes less weird than it sounds or looks), which we didn’t even order, but I’m always in favor of tasty mistakes. Right up there with happy accidents.

The cool started to thaw, however with the pulled pork tacos, which were just okay, as were the shishito peppers, which are never bad, but are also very guilty at this point of a “tried one, you’ve tried ‘em all.” Seriously, I’ve had this dish at over a dozen restaurants and I’ve yet to find a place that can screw it up.

On that note, there were a couple of screw-ups. The pear and gorgonzola flatbread (pictured) is garbage, with its horrendously overpowering crust. You can get better flatbreads out of the freezer case at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. But worse still was the spicy coconut lemon ginger ceviche. It wasn’t spicy. It wasn’t lemony. Not even coconutty or gingery. It was however crappy and unworthy and the blandest ceviche I’ve ever had.

Now I don’t want to blacklist Black Bottle just because the wheels came off toward the end, because there truly is potential in them thar hills, but I also don’t want to oversell this place either. It’s good if your in the hood. If you’re not, don’t step over anyone chasing after a 4 star experience that isn’t there. #yelphype.

2 teeth

Blanche’s Cafe

655 Madison Ave. New York, NY 10065 • (646) 919-4634

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Not that people still shop Donna Karan like they used to, but regardless, this is a nice little hidden gem upstairs inside the DKNY shop on Madison Avenue and unless you are willing to endure the cost, not to mention the wait, at Fred’s at the top of Barney’s, this is really one of the best things going in terms of affordable nourishment amidst the posh midtown shopping scene.

Everything is organic, vegetarian and delicious. From her incredible Peach smoothie to the veggie burger salad or sandwich- in either form it’s way good. But easy good. Nothing you couldn’t source from a Whole Foods and whip up yourself in about 10 minutes, but that’s also tough to do when you are knee deep in your dressing room, surrounded by shopping bags and you get the growlies. Are you gonna run back home and whip up lunch? No. No you’re not. So for an in-store beacon of convenience,  I highly recommend this oasis as a great pit stop during a grueling NYC shopping spree.

3 teeth

Marta

29 E 29th St. New York, NY 10016(212) 689-1900martamanhattan.com

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So, while Danny Meyer is busy reconstructing Madison Square Park to accommodate a bigger and badder Shake Shack, apparently he decided to take up thin crust pizza as a hobby in lieu of burgers.

Located in the Martha Washington Hotel lobby, hence the origin of the name, the restaurant feels a little homeless, not being its own thing. Granted it takes up about 95% of the lobby, so perhaps it’s the lobby that’s truly homeless? All of that aside, they do a nice job with décor. Open and contemporary with a sizeable amount of seating. But don’t let that fool you. You practically have to sell a kidney to get a table for dinner. Fortunately for my internal organs, lunch reservations come much easier.

A quick bite, however, it most certainly is not. The service runs at an escargot pace, so if you’re doing a business lunch, I recommend blocking a good two hours, because two Diet Cokes took over 30 minutes to hit our table. Lucky for me I went with a glass of Brunello, which only took about a third of that.

The pies also take quite a while, nearly 45 minutes, but I’m happy to report that most of them were worth the wait. Especially the Testa made with pig face and celery. It’s so inventive and just as scrumptious. A close second was the carbonara. Just as the name implies, it’s topped with bacon and egg and fontina. And it’s damn fine.

The least impressive of the three was also the least inventive, the funghi, made with hen of the woods mushrooms. It’s certainly good if you have your heart set on shrooms, but compared to the likes of the funghi at Oenotri in Napa, this tastes like something you can get in the freezer section at Whole Foods. And I mean that with all due respect.

Now, assuming you’ve cleared your calendar and venture on towards dessert, here’s what you should know- it’s nowhere near as great as other reviewers claim. The affagato was easily the better of the two, but be warned, it’s very untraditional, made with honey and kumquats as opposed to espresso. The ice cream is incredible, however, and truly makes the dish shine. On the other hand, the chocolate and pistachio ice cream sandwich with mascarpone ice cream was significantly less radiant. About as basic as it gets, tasting like something you could get at TGI Fridays… back in the 80’s.

All in all Marta is certainly good for lunch, I cannot tell a lie. But definitely don’t sell off any vital organs to get in. There are droves of better pies all over the city.

3 teeth

McCoy’s Bar & Grill

Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport • 9300 Airport Blvd. Orlando, FL 32827(407) 825-1340 orlandoairport.hyatt.com/en/hotel/dining/McCoysBarandGrill.html

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It’s in an airport inside a hotel, so this is obviously not a destination unto itself unless you are a culinary masochist, but even with these two categorical strikes against it from the onset, it actually managed to hit the spot in the end.

Certainly a very hit and miss experience, I mean who are we kidding, but our waiter was very honest and very good. Steering us toward the better things on the menu, which helped. However, even within those, there were still a few misses as well.

Of the hits I would give shout outs to the red wine blend by the glass, Chateau St. Jean. And to the Thai chicken wings (pictured).

After that, the fish bites were okay. As were the stuffed jalapenos. The only flat out miss was the hummus, served with the same chips you’d find at Whole Foods. The octagonal ones with the flax seeds.

But net, net, it’s a solid stop before a flight to grab a drink and a quick bite- if you know what to bite, that is.

2 teeth

 

The Ultimate Ice Cream (Packaged)

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Steve’s Ice Cream

Habanero Carrot, Bourbon Vanilla, Mexican Chili Chocolate, Scotch Chocolate. I’m sorry, but Ben and who? And it’s not just the ridonkulous flavors that make these pints evaporate faster than a teardrop in the Sahara- and no, it’s not the booze either, although it doesn’t hurt. It’s the cream. It’s so velvety it’s as though you are eating frozen cashmere. Sorry, I’m running out of metaphors and similes. But the point is that it’s more cream than ice, which makes for a very rich, very worthwhile cheat. Or reward. However you roll. Pick it up at Whole Foods or you can order directly online.

 

 

Landmarc

10 Columbus Circle 3rd Fl. New York, NY 10019(212) 823-6123landmarc-restaurant.com/twc

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There are two locations to this place and I definitely prefer the one uptown. First of all, the size makes it MUCH easier to get a table. But secondly, it’s right next to Bouchon Bakery so you can pick up a few “gifts” on the way home.

Decor is nice and service has always been great here. My only gripe is that the food isn’t all that. Most dishes are good at best, and several things on the menu are just “eh.”  For example the burger (pictured). My favorite part of coming here is actually for the mini desserts (little one bite wonders). It’s fun to get one of everything and share.

Net, net it’s more like 2.5 knives, so I wouldn’t rush here, but if you happen to be shopping in the Time Warner Center, it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than your other options, except maybe for Jamba Juice in the Whole Foods.

3 teeth

Fog never shined so bright

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One of the oldest meals in world is still one of the best, as far as I’m concerned. Wine and cheese. It is literally without equal when you consider just how low maintenance it is in terms of preparation (for those of us who simply have to buy it), while still managing to come off classy and dare I say, special. Just try pulling this off with any other “pre-prepared” meal, like a frozen pizza.

But the trick is to know which cheese to buy. Enter Humboldt Fog, the Compost Cookie (Momofuku Milk Bar) of cheeses, meaning that they’ve thrown just about every possible ingredient you can imagine into this thing, and the result is a medium-creamy, bleu-ish jack-of-all-trades. I mean this cheese goes with everything, and I mean EVERYTHING. You can have it by itself. You can have it in an omelet. You can have it on a burger or hotdog. You can have it with spicy peppers or buttery prosciutto. You can even have it on a boat with a goat. But bland it’s not. It doesn’t go with everything simply by playing a supporting role. Oh no. This cheese will make its presence felt no matter where you put it, so don’t try sticking baby in a corner.

And speaking of corners, the best part about Humboldt Fog is that it’s easy to find, right around the corner from virtually everyone. It’s at every Whole Foods. Plus, you can also buy it online directly from the makers at Cypress Grove, from Murray’s and even on Amazon. So once they get those drones going you can literally air drop some Humboldt fog right at your doorstep. Which could get dangerous. Bon appetite!

5 teeth

Wholey Sh*t!!!

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Now, hopefully you’re sitting down for this one, because I’m not sure if you’re aware that one of the finest chocolate morsels you will ever stick in your puss just happens to be made by the one and only Whole Foods.

Yes, you heard me correct. Whole Foods makes caramels covered in a wonderfully bitter dark chocolate, which they then top with a very pure sea salt. And as these three painfully simple ingredients collide inside your mouth it’s as if Mozart were resurrected, turned into a chocolatier, and told to play a symphony for your taste buds.

This is no exaggeration. They are THAT good. Up there with Rich Art and Anna Shea- granted nowhere near as visually stunning.

That’s it. There’s really nothing else for me to say other than…World. Rocked.

5 teeth